There is no doubt about it, once you decide you’re ready to start your family, your patience will immediately begin to be tested. What should be the happiest time in our lives can sometimes be the most disappointing. Starting a family seems so easy for some, yet very complicated for many of us. Whether you end up on the road of infertility and decide to pursue adoption or fertility treatments (or both), the wait is a very real and a very stressful part of the process. Waiting on the phone to ring can seem like torture at times and it doesn't matter whether you’re waiting for an adoption agency with news of a match or for test results to come back from the doctor. Add in a few good doses of some disappointment and it can be tough – painfully so. We both survived it and not only survived it, but learned to thrive in it – to the fullest extent possible! We learned to be patient and look to God for strength in those moments where you could almost hear the second hand on the clock... tick, tock, tick tock. God yearns for us to praise Him even among our biggest storms. He sends these storms to draw us closer to Him. So do just that – draw close to Him and praise Him in your storm! If you have found yourself in this storm as we have, then follow along for some ways that helped us get through our difficult, complicated times.
The Personal Matters
Let Go of Your Attempt to Control the Uncontrollable
There is nothing wrong with wanting to have children. We believe God puts that desire in our hearts for a reason. He specifically designed us that way from the beginning. So once we recognize the desire is there, we begin to plan for that day; however, we do not know what God’s timing will look like, or how long that road will be. That is out of our control. Nevertheless, we continue to try to fight to hang on to feeling in control with our hearts. It’s a useless battle and the outcome is simply more unnecessary stress and anxiety, both for us personally and for our relationships. So how do you plan the course and let God establish the steps? It can be very helpful at times when struggling with this to actually make a list of things within our control (i.e. taking medication, going to doctor appointments, overall health) and things that were out of our control (i.e. my body’s response to the medication). Then we can focus our energy and thoughts on doing those things within our control to the best of our ability and turn the rest over to Him. God will allow us to be tested, and we may feel like things are completely out of our control, but God is always in control of our circumstances and wants us to live life abundantly, faithfully, and with hope.
Seek a Mentor and Supportive Friends
The Bible is full of mentoring relationships, like Ruth and Naomi, and 1 Peter 5:1-5 describes this mentoring as a process of showing humility and bringing glory to Him. God knows we need guidance through the difficult phases of life and shows us the proper way. If possible, find a mentor who has been through a similar experience to call on as you go through this process. Whether you’re going through fertility treatments or adoption, there are a lot of decisions to be made and having someone who has walked this road to refer to is immensely helpful. And to have a Godly mentor will help you find God’s purpose for this wait and can change your whole perspective.
In addition to a mentor, find a few trusted, encouraging friends who don’t mind a few late night phone calls when you’re having a rough day. A friendship or two that can keep your spirits lifted, your thoughts positive and keep you focused on God as you travel this road is a blessing like no other.
Find Your Prayer Warriors
This is possibly one of the most important and comforting things you can do while in your wait. They don’t have to know all the details of your journey, but finding people that will truly commit to praying for you is an amazing experience. Knowing these prayer warriors are out there on your good and bad days is so comforting and you will definitely feel the impact of their prayers. In addition to asking them to pray for your one-day child, ask them to pray for your spiritual growth during this trial. Ask them to pray for protection and strength for your marriage while you walk through difficult days. Ask them to pray that God will show you His purpose for your wait and show you the blessing(s) that will come from it. Ask them to pray for your humility, perseverance, and decision making. God will not let you down and that alone will keep you going and keep your eyes on Him! The Bible is full of references to prayer warriors, because it’s important!
Be Still and Listen
God allows us seasons of waiting so that we will have to actually “stop” and pay attention to Him. If we always got exactly what we wanted, when we wanted it, then we, as selfish humans, wouldn't have much need to seek His will and purpose. We wouldn't have much of an opportunity to recognize the “everyday miracles” that God performs – like the right person saying the right thing at the right time to help you in a decision or to comfort you when your heart is broken. Sometimes, He just needs to get our attention so He can teach us a few things, shower us with His amazing grace, and give us the desire to bring Him the glory from the miraculous outcome of our situation. And in that wait, it gives us the chance to learn to cast our anxiety on Him and be thankful – yes thankful – for the wait and the struggle.
I read this verse countless times while on my journey and it became my prayerful goal to learn to give God my anxiety, to just sit and LISTEN for His voice and direction, and to thank Him while I waited. It was a hard thing to do and took a lot of diligent practice, but oh the blessings that came from it. The peace that comes truly does surpass all understanding. Even though your desire for a baby does not diminish at all, the wait becomes a peaceful, blessed and comforted one. And God will, if you allow Him, use our biggest pains to become the greatest opportunities for ministry. We are living proof of that!
Praise Him – The Storms Bring the Greatest Showers of Blessings
This seems so counter-intuitive to our human nature, and it is. But that’s the point. Just like the chunk of coal that under immense pressure and time becomes a beautiful diamond, we cannot grow spiritually, or otherwise, without a little hardship and trial. Our faith becomes stagnant without being tested. And God gets a chance to show off his incredible power, love and grace through our weakness. As Paul explained in 2 Corinthians 12:9, God’s grace is sufficient for us, for His power is made perfect in weakness. So we should boast about our weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may be seen through us.
The obvious blessing is the long-awaited child; however, we have both found that there are countless other blessings that have come from our trials. We are both completely changed people since going through the struggles to start our families. Our marriages are stronger, we are better parents for our precious children than we would have been prior to the long wait, and more importantly, we know what pain and comfort is first hand so we can now pass on the comforting to others. Those are just a few of the blessings that we never would have experienced, had it not been for our storms. So yes, we’re incredibly thankful for the wait, for the heart breaks, for the struggle. We’re incredibly thankful that God was always in control and always had us in the palm of His hand. It’s hard to see that when you are in the middle of the journey, but you have to just keep telling yourself that, keep reading those verses, and keep praying that God will reveal bits of His purpose and blessings to you along the way. But without a struggle, there’s no need for a miracle and without the miracles, God doesn’t get to show us just how incredible He is!
We've already discussed how God is in control, has a purpose and a future for you, is working in us to complete us and bless us and wants us to give him our anxiety and worry. So now what... now we simply trust. Cling to these verses, or one that God gives you for your particular journey, and anytime you start feeling that anxiety rise up or start to question God’s presence in your life, read the verses again and TRUST. Banish all the other thoughts from your mind and lean on your mentor, friend and prayer warriors to help you do that! When I got to this point in my journey, God showed me a verse that became the one I clung to. “Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24. At that point, it became clear that it was all about faith. That trust and faith will not return empty.
The Practical Stuff
Be Honest – With Yourself and Your Spouse
Infertility is a difficult process to go through and you may find at times that you're just tired. Though it applies to either option, this is especially true if you are undergoing fertility treatments. It's hard on your body, your mind, your marriage and you may find that you just need to take a break. Do it! Take a cycle off and refresh yourself. Focus on your spouse, do something fun together, put the baby making on the back burner for a few weeks until you feel rejuvenated and excited to try again. There is enough outside pressure put on you during this process that you don't need to add to it by putting yourself through another cycle of medicines and procedures when you aren't completely ready. If you are awaiting that special phone call from an adoption agency, the same principles apply. Breaks may be needed, especially if you have been waiting a while. Remove your names from a list if you have to and begin again. The "not knowing" can be much more stressful than you admit to yourselves. When your name is on a list, in the back of your mind, you are constantly wondering if someone is looking at your profile and asking yourself why am I not being chosen. So be honest - with yourself and your spouse - about how you're feeling, how he's feeling, and make the decisions together.
Stay Busy and Keep Your Mind Active
When you’re waiting on a phone call or are in the dreaded “two week wait” between the time when you could have gotten pregnant and when you get the test results back, the worst thing you can do is give yourself plenty of time with nothing to do but think and stare at the phone! During these times, call up those friends we discussed above and go do something! Have a couple special date nights with your husband (who by the way is waiting just as patiently or impatiently as you). And when you do find yourself quiet and thinking, then practice listening for God’s voice and stay in the scriptures. As we all learned as children on Christmas Eve, the big surprises come quicker when you’re busy!
Both adoption and fertility treatment options can be quite expensive, so as soon as you start your wait for a child, start saving money where you can. It will take a lot of pressure off if you can afford to have more options, and hey... if your wait ends sooner than later and you've been saving, then hooray – you get to buy that much more adorable little baby stuff, treat yourself to a massage or take a vacation with hubby! Also, if you are adopting, check into tax credits and also many companies offer reimbursement programs for adoption related expenses.
Do Your Research**
I’m going to put an asterisk by this one because this one partially depends on your personality. For us, we are both engineers who are married to engineers. We love science, we love facts, and we love knowing everything about everything. So research was not only very comforting to us when we were trying to stay busy and keep our minds active, but also helped us feel more prepared as we approached decision points. However, we recognize that not everyone thinks this way. You may be someone who quickly becomes overwhelmed by technical or legal information. If this is the case, then limit your research to finding a great medical staff or lawyers whom you can trust to guide you through the future decisions.
Don’t Wish Away the Life You Do Have
This is a very important one that can make a huge difference on the impact this wait has on both you personally and on your marriage. When you’re so focused on having a baby and by the nature of the option you choose, so much of life becomes dictated and centered around trying to have this baby, it can be easy to forget that the life you currently have is still pretty great. You want to grow your family because you've got a happy family and a happy marriage now. So don’t lose sight of that. A friend told me once, “Look... we all know how this story is going to end. One way or another, you will have a baby at the end of this road. But the catch is we don’t know just how long this road is. So don’t forget to stop at some romantic scenic overlooks along the way and hold hands with your husband.” She was absolutely right! We've been married for a while now, Courtney for 10 years and Jenny for almost 12 years, and we both spent five of those years trying to have a baby. We are so glad that those five years weren't solely defined by our journey to start a family. Though that did make up a big part of our lives then, we found time to just live too – we threw parties, went on trips, had date nights, laughed, talked, worked, and lived – and tried to start a family. As a result, our marriages are much stronger, our families much more solid, and we have no regrets!
Someone Else Having a Baby Doesn't Take Away Your Chance
This can be a tough area for many people going through their waiting period. While you’re waiting, and waiting, and waiting... it seems that everyone else around you is getting pregnant. And if your wait is long enough, you get lapped! While you’re still trying for baby #1, your best friend or sister has her 1st, 2nd and 3rd babies. It can be tough and though you are happy for your friends and happy that they do not have to experience the same kind of struggle as you, it’s hard because it’s such a stark reminder of what you’re longing for so badly. However, the good news is that there is no quota on the number of babies that can be born. Just because the Duggars have had enough babies to populate a small country of their own, does not have any impact whatsoever on the likelihood that you will have a baby yourself. Remember that God has a plan for everyone. Only He knows just how long our road is and how many stops we’ll make along the way. So try hard to just be happy for your friends and focus on staying positive for your own journey. It will be worth the wait!
Though it feels anything but normal, this wait what you find yourself in is a normal season of life. That does not make it any easier... we know. However, you don't have to try to hide or deny your emotions because as Ecclesiastes says, there's a time to mourn and weep, but there's also a time to dance and laugh. So be honest with yourselves, with your spouse, with your friends and pray warriors, and most importantly with God. You can be frustrated and excited, heartbroken and hopeful. And you can experience all of those emotions without losing your faith! You can go through this wait and come out a stronger person, better spouse and more equipped parent. But you have to be willing to let God lead you through the journey. He will never forsake you, never leave you and will bring you to the place that He has already prepared. We just have to hang on for the ride and keep our heads up to see what He wants to show us along the way. And we have to remember that this is a season of our lives - it is not forever. God will redirect our paths when His time is right.
We truly pray that you find some or all of these tips helpful as you endure your wait. It's tough, but is worth every second of it at the end. Just use your time while you wait to really focus on becoming a better you, a better wife, a better friend and that will make you a better mom when your time comes. God really does have you in the palm of His hand and will guide you through every step of the journey if you let Him. He will show you incredible things along the way and will teach you invaluable lessons. He will comfort you with a comfort that reaches the deepest, darkest corners of your soul and will fill you to the brim with His joy. So prayerfully, try hard to focus on that, get your friends and mentors to help you along the way, and remember that YOU ARE NOT ALONE in what can feel like the longest wait.